When it comes to the San Diego Chargers, generally I tend to be more optimistic than I probably should be. But when I look at this season, I can’t seem to find anything that says we, the fans, should feel good about the team’s chances of turning things around in 2016. So, in week 7, I am posing the question: Is it too early to start looking toward 2017? I don’t think it is. Allow me to explain my reasoning.
It is a statistical improbability to make the playoffs
The Chargers currently reside in last place in the AFC West with a 2-4 record and a decent chance to be 2-5 after this week. Before last week’s win against the Denver Broncos, the Chargers sat at 1-4. Statistically, this is not great for a team's chances of making the playoffs. Since 1990, just six percent of teams to start 1-4 have made it into the tournament. I know, the Chargers have defied the odds before. And yes, last season the Kansas City Chiefs went on to make the playoffs by winning 10 straight games after a 1-5 start.
The thing is, this year’s Chargers are not last years Chiefs. The Chiefs turned their season around with an above average offense that was able to perfectly complement a suffocating defense. The Chargers are too banged up to replicate what the Chiefs were able to do. Though the bolts have one of the best offenses in the league, the defense in its current state cannot provide a big enough boost to propel the team to a 10 plus game winning streak. We also need to keep in mind that the Chiefs are a much better team in the coaching department, with a staff capable of navigating such difficult waters. That brings us to my next point.
It’s no secret that one of the most significant weaknesses on this Chargers team is the coaching staff. For whatever reason, the coaches ae unable or unwilling to realize when something does not work, or that they shouldn’t go away from something that does. In fact, they are still trying to lose games. No, I don’t mean they are purposefully trying to end the game with fewer points than their opponents. Rather, they are adamant about sticking to a philosophy that has proven to fail time and again. This concept of building a lead and then trying to run and hide with it does not work.
Need proof? The Chargers are 2-4, and every single loss this season has come by virtue of a blown 4th quarter lead. They even tried to do it again last week against the Broncos. I am convinced if there had been just 45 more second on the game clock, the Chargers would have lost that game. Why can’t the coaches see that this team is not built to sit back and allow the defense to close out the game? The Chargers best defense right now is their offense, but every game they build a lead and then proceed to pump the brakes offensively. It just does not make any sense, and it’s causing this team to lose games they should have won.
Even on the off chance the Chargers did somehow make the playoffs, are they really healthy enough to compete with the best the league has to offer? Keenan Allen, Jason Verrett, Danny Woodhead, Branden Oliver all on IR, the offensive line is almost never intact, and the secondary is in shambles. It is mind blowing how many players the Chargers lose to injury. I’m not going to get into reasons why that might be, but eventually, those injuries take a toll. The Chargers have been competitive in every game they have lost, even leading toward the end of every game as previously mentioned. However, playing against the toughest opponents in the playoffs, this might not be the case. I don’t know that they have enough manpower to compete at a high enough level when it matters the most.
I am ready to look forward to next season. Despite how this season is unfolding, the future looks bright going forward. With a stable of young, immensely talented players coming into their own, the Chargers may not be so far away from a chance to compete for real. Of course, I will continue to support the team for the remainder of this season, as I cling to the hope that they have a box containing a miracle just waiting to be opened. Who knows, crazier things have happened. But I still think next season offers more reason for optimism.